I made my first hike to Old Rag on June 2, 2002. This is an impressive day hike. I left the upper parking lot at 6:45 AM. Taking the blue blaze Ridge Trail, I arrived at the summit at 9:30 AM. There was already one group at the top enjoying the sun and the view. Along the way up, I saw blooming mountain laurel, Virginia Blue Bells, a deer, hawks, a red headed woodpecker, and even a snake sunning itself in the middle of the hiking trail. With a poke of my hiking stick, the snake slid off into the underbrush. That was enough wildlife for one hike!
The Ridge Trail starts with a series of switchbacks as you climb out of the valley up the ridge. The rock scrambles near the top were fun and challenging. The trail requires you to scamper over, under and through four boulder groups. At several points, I found myself taking off my pack so I could pull myself up over the boulders or squeeze through a crevice. Even before the mid day heat, the hike was demanding and strenuous. Take lots of water, snacks and a jacket to fight off the wind on the summit. For a first timer like me, the windy view from the top is worth every bit of the energy it takes to make it up.
The Ridge Trail is demanding and is not a hike I recommend for beginners. Good strong hiking boots are a must and hiking poles help with the hike back down. I made it back down to the car lot in 1.5 hours taking the Saddle Trail and the Weakley Hollow Fire Road trail. This is a longer walk back, but it is a relaxing walk that follows a creek. Total hiking distance: 7.1 miles. I was on my way home by 12:30 PM. Old Rag is a wonderful, memorable hike. Preparation is important for this trip; plan in advance.